Archive for August, 2011

Report from Tehree Gordon at Jirrahlinga – June 2011

Both dingos are in small, cosy enclosures at Jirrahlinga as it was felt they would need to develop their trust in humans and learn to feel secure in their new home. They are able to see each other but have not yet been re-introduced to each other; it has been some four years since they were separated from the main group, following a series of serious fights which resulted from several females being enclosed with just one male at Buhusi Zoo. Lena suffered some nasty bite wounds at this time and it may have been during one of these that she finally lost the complete sight of one eye.

Janis has been the one to settle first and is coming along in leaps and bounds. She plays readily, jumps all over her handlers and acts like a young puppy. She has been taken for a ride in the car and down to the river, although she is yet to realise that water can be fun. I am hoping that Monty, (a little dingo pup that was very sick last year) will teach Janis to swim. Janis, however, is still anxious with sudden noises and does not like people rushing her (strangers); but that is normal dingo behaviour anyway. Janis is starting to mix with some of the younger dingos but this is being addressed with caution as this time is currently dingo breeding season and hierarchy can still play a big part, whether the dogs are deseeded or not. But she has certainly made progress from the anxious dingo which constantly circled her spartan rescue cage at Pathera in Holland, when the Lion’s Roar team last saw her.

Lena is the older of the two dingos, and was the more seriously traumatised when she arrived in Australia. She is slower at coming around and now takes food out of her keeper’s hand – especially chicken necks and wings – although now these are fresh and not still frozen! She has graduated from beef and will now eat anything offered to her – a sign of her growing trust in her handlers. Lena does not like strangers and knows her selected few contacts and greets them eagerly on their arrival.

Lena will never be as confident as Janis but we all believe she has suffered more than Janis in the past. All she knew in her past were angry, threatening voices and tools used as weapons, as her Buhusi keepers had no understanding of dingo behaviour and expected her to react like a domestic dog. But with lots of love and care, I am determined she will never know hurt or raised voices again. Lena is now becoming very friendly with one of our older dingoes and we hope they will eventually become companions; she also likes two of the younger dingoes. Lena now understands she is loved and has responded well for an animal who has known such torture in her past.

My plan is to use a Buddhist monk volunteer who works with some of the most traumatised animals at Jirrahlinga, so that, when the timing is appropriate, he can work to calm her anxieties and help with the introductions to develop a small dingo pack. When this is accomplished, it is expected that the group will move together to take up permanent residence at the designated Dingo Sanctuary in Castlemaine, in a larger group enclosure.

I cannot thank enough the team of Lion’s Roar volunteers who worked so hard to bring some love and quality of life to two forgotten creatures, and highly recommend that any support be given to carry on such work so that our heritage does not become a history of forgotten species. My special thanks to Linda Mira-Bateman who handled all the necessary paperwork with the Australian authorities, without whose assistance the dream of bringing dingos back to their roots would not have been possible.

Tehree Gordon

Read Full Post »

Bella sits on her favourite path at Lilongwe

As one of the Lion’s Roar team which first alerted Born Free to the appalling conditions at Buhusi Zoo in Romania, which had been Bella’s permanent home until 2009, I was eager to see how Bella was faring at Lilongwe in Malawi. I applied to assist as a volunteer at the Wildlife Centre for 2 weeks in July, which would enable me to do something useful and see Bella in her not-so-new surroundings! I was impatient to see her as soon as possible and Jez, the Volunteer Programme manager, was only too happy to oblige.
My first reaction was to cry with relief! Bella looks fantastic – healthy, content and so much at home in her huge, tree-filled enclosure, that I can’t imagine what she makes of the changes in her lifestyle! In Buhusi, she only ever had cold, concrete (and filthy) flooring under her feet; at Lilongwe she sunbathes on a bed of fallen leaves between the trees or stretches out along the pathway where she is guaranteed to catch a moment or two with every visitor that passes by her enclosure. Although her eyesight is poor, her senses of smell and hearing are acute, and she sniffs the air regularly, and listens for any signals of approaching guests. She is so well-loved at Lilongwe – she features prominently on leaflets and posters – and visitors adore her because they are guaranteed to see her up close, as she relishes having company, and will welcome visitors by rubbing along her fence in greeting. Her life couldn’t be more different than the miserable existence she had in Romania.

The management and carer team at Lilongwe are determined to make things even better for Bella. An ever-expanding enrichment programme is being developed, with a new ‘toy’ or ‘interest’ being used for her enclosure every day. I stitched several sacks from locally available hessian sheeting while I was there, which can be stuffed with a variety of fillings, such as straw and leaves, and smeared with smells which will delight a lioness – prey droppings, catnip spray or lavender oil for example! Two other volunteers, Tanya had her son Oliver, had carried a bowling ball in their luggage for Bella to play with! She loves her back-scratching brushes too, although a large part of Bella’s entertainment with these is the challenge of pulling them off the trees as swiftly as she can!! Hmmm… one still to be perfected!! And Bella now has a popsicle (ice lolly) each week, sometimes with treats hidden inside, or flavoured with the blood from her fresh meat food. The objective is to encourage Bella to use and become more accustomed with the complete area of her enclosure, as it is felt she may be a little reticent to leave the more familiar parts of the space due to her limited eyesight. But hopefully, she can be encouraged to roam around more freely as she investigates her new playthings.

One morning during my stay we left a stuffed sack, smeared with duiker poo, just along her pathway, after we had cleaned the indoor enclosure. As soon as the door was re-opened, her head was raised high as she sniffed the air and she made her way over to investigate the new scent. She immediately grabbed the sack and headed off into her forested area, pausing occasionally to push the sack around and paw at its contents. She moved it around to several different places while we were watching, to our delight, as it certainly encouraged her to use a larger area than she does regularly. When I went in to retrieve the sack next day, in the hopes of refilling it with something different for the next time, there was very little of it left intact – which was actually even better than we hoped! Although it means a constant supply of bags will be needed, she obviously had spent several hours pulling it apart!!
Bella has now trimmed down a little, following the vet’s instructions, and this it is hoped, will assist her movement which is slightly hampered by her poorly-formed hind legs, caused by her previous care in Romania. Certainly she appears to be blissfully relaxed in her surroundings, and the one addition we would like to see for her would be a companion for permanent company in, or next to, her enclosure. But that’s the next project for Bella….!!

Read Full Post »